I thought we had answered the final question at our Outreach Luncheon a couple of Sundays ago — but there was one final request. We had a great time at the luncheon, during which our guests and new members could ask me any question they wished. But just as we were getting ready to close, one of our new little 7-year-old girls ran a little paper up to me with a question, and it read: “How is God made?” I told her, that is SUCH a good question, and the answer is that God never was “made”; He never had a beginning; He always has been. But I told her that if this seems difficult for her to understand, not to feel badly, for A.W. Tozer wrote years ago that of all of the concepts of God, His eternity is perhaps the most difficult for us to grasp, because everything else we know in all the world has had a beginning: we have all been born, everything we know has come into being at some point. But not God. He had no beginning. So, I told her, don’t feel badly if it is hard to picture God as having no beginning – some of the very greatest minds in all the world have the same problem! Well, she was very sweet and very attentive, and I hope she truly grasped that idea – a truth that I hope that we ALL come away with a better grasp of today as well!
We are continuing our series: “Our Great God” this morning, with the message, “Our Eternal God.” Psalm 90:2 says “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” We are going to look this morning at the doctrine of the eternal, unchanging nature of God, and then several applications of that truth.
I. The Doctrine of Our Eternal God
Psalm 90 begins with the inscription: “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” It is interesting that even many liberal scholars believe these are Moses’ words; they are SO like Him; many of the words of this Psalm are right out of the Pentateuch. Psalm 90 contains the insights of a man who has walked with God through mountain and valley, trial and victory. And under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” That is, as long as we have been a people, from the call of Moses when he was in Assyria, and first came to the land which You would show him, You were with him. When Joseph went into prison inEgypt, You were right there at his side. When You called us out of the land of Egypt, and we were trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, Your pillar of fire led us, and delivered us from their hand, splitting the sea – and You have led us through all this wilderness. Moses was saying, as long as we have been a people, You have been with us; as our dwelling place, our shelter, our God.
But then he makes this amazing statement in verse 2: “Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Moses was saying, God, you have been with us as long as we have been a people. But You did not come into being with the people ofIsrael. You have been in existence forever. “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” Moses was saying that God made the world. He was in existence before anything else was. “Before the mountains were born, or YOU gave birth to the earth” – these things did not just “come into existence” – GOD brought them forth. It is just as Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth.” Before anything else came into being, GOD WAS! (And when I say God, I mean “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”! John 1:3, speaking of God the Son, says “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being.” This is significant. The Bible says there that everything that has been “made” was “made” by Him. That excludes HIM! HE was not “made.” He was already in existence from eternity! God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit already were before anything else came into being.) This is what Moses is saying here in the second part of :2 “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
From eternity, to eternity, God is God. He was never “made”; He never “came into being.” He always has been; He is; and He always will be.
This is evident in His very name. We learn much about God from the names He reveals to us in scripture. Some love His name Jehovah Jireh, the Lord the Provider; or Jehovah Rophe, the Lord who heals you, or El Shaddai, God Almighty. But when God told Moses to bring His people out of the land of Egypt, and Moses asked Him who he should tell him was sending him, God said to him, “I AM WHO I AM; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.;” (Exodus 3:14) The name God gave Moses there, “I AM”, is from the Hebrew word “Hayah”, “to be”. It is “Yahweh”, some use the name “Jehovah”, which is the reverential name the Hebrews employed, not wanting to defile “the name” “Yahweh” in common use, but putting the vowels for “Adonai” with the consonants for Yahweh, making the name “Jehovah.” But the name is best translated “Yahweh”; basically meaning “I AM”: “I was; I am; and I always will be.” It expresses the eternal nature of God. He always was; He always is; and He always will be. That is what this verse is saying: “From everlasting to everlasting” He is God! God had no beginning; and He will have no end. There was no time when God was not; and there will never be a time when He is not.
In fact, God is not even bound by time at all. He stands outside of time; over and above and around time and space, but He is not bound by it. We see that in this text. Psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.” Time is nothing to God; He is eternal; He is above it all.
C.S. Lewis had what is perhaps the best perspective on God in relation to time, in his book, Mere Christianity. He wrote: “If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn.” We can easily see that on a page (and on the overhead screen). There is a line on an otherwise blank page. That little line represents all of this world’s history: from the very birth of creation, which is the beginning of the line, to the culmination of history, when time will end. All of it may be summarized on that line, and every event of history is contained within it. But there is much more to reality than just that “little line.” There is a whole white blank above it, beneath it, surrounding it. This gives us something like a picture of God’s relationship to time. He is not restrained by time or contained in history; He is above it all; surrounding it all, in what Lewis called an “eternal now.” He is “I AM”; always the same; He can look at history, past, present and future, as it seems from our perspective, but to Him it is all the same. HE IS! He is not contained inside of time, but is eternal. “From everlasting to everlasting” He is God!
II. Applications of the Eternal Nature of God
This is NOT just a “philosophical” doctrine that has no impact on our lives. It has more pertinent applications than we can begin to address in one message:
A. The Immutability of God
First of all, it reminds us that because God is eternal, He is unchanging. Theologians call this the doctrine of God’s “IMMUTABILITY.” To “mutate” means to “change.” God does not change. He is immutable. He is always the same. A.W. Tozer wrote that God cannot change, because change can only be 3 ways: from worse to better, better to worse, or growing within itself (becoming more mature, etc.) God can do NONE of these. He can’t get any better; He is already perfect. He can’t get any worse; His holiness will never corrupt. And He can’t “grow” within Himself; He is already perfectly mature. He is eternal, unchanging God. But this is not just a philosophical speculation; God tells us so in His word:
— Psalm 102:25-27 says: “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing they will be changed, but You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.”
— God said in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.”
— Hebrews 13:8 declares: “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today and forever.”
Just like the verse of the old hymn says: “We blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree, and wither, and perish, but naught changest Thee.” God is eternal, immutable; He is eternally the great “I AM”; He never changes.
This has some very contemporary applications for us today. A few weeks ago I mentioned that just because someone uses the word “God”, does not mean that they are referring to the God that the Bible teaches is Triune, Sovereign, Holy, Eternal, and Immutable.
Just the other day, there was an interview on CBS where televangelist Joel Osteen was asked what he thought as a Christian pastor about Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, and Osteen replied that since Romney was a man of faith, who believed in God and Jesus, that was “good enough for me.” The problem with that is that being “a man of faith” is not enough. It is not “faith” alone that saves you; it matters WHO you have faith IN! As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Mormons do not believe in the eternal nature of God. They believe that God was once a man like we are, and through time, he evolved to become the god of his own planet. And they do not believe that Jesus Christ was eternal, either; they teach that He was “born” from a spirit marriage of God in heaven. So when they talk about “god”, they are not talking about the eternal God; when they talk about Jesus, they are not describing Him whom the Bible says “created all things that were made.” In fact, a well-known Mormon doctrinal catch-phrase is: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become”, because they teach if you follow the tenets of the Mormon church, then you too may evolve to become a god over YOUR own planet. This is NOT the God the Bible speaks of! The Bible says of God “From everlasting to everlasting” He is God. He had no beginning; He has never changed over time; He is not even bound by time. He is immortal; immutable; eternal; unchanging God! Mormons and other religious groups may use the word “God”, but they do not mean by it what we mean by it; do not be deceived by the language! When we say “God”, we mean eternal, immutable, unchanging God – and unfortunately that is NOT what many mean when they say “god.”
And really, this whole idea of God’s eternity just puts us in our place. The doctrine of God’s eternity reminds us that things do not revolve around us. When we look at that “line” of history on the “page” of eternity; we are not even little “dots” on that line! Verse 5 of Psalm 90 here says we “are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away.” You and I are not “the stars of the show” in this world; no indeed, if anything, we are like little “bit actors” who pass quickly across the stage to utter one little blurb, and walk off, and we are done. That is our life! We are so temporary. How can we be so selfish; so self-centered, as if everything revolved around us and our concerns? But “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God! This doctrine reminds us that it is not about us; it is about HIM!
The eternal nature of God means so much for how we understand what is happening to us as we live our lives in the world, and for prayer, and how God provides for us. When we understand that God is not bound by time, it gives us a better understanding of the whole issue of “predestination” and “foreknowledge” – it is all one to God! There is no “past” or “future” to God; He sees it all at the same time.
Somebody says, “You prayed and got that package in the mail the next day; God didn’t answer your prayer; that package was already coming. It wasn’t an ‘answer’ to your prayer.” But God is not limited by our time. God who knows tomorrow the same as He knows yesterday has arranged it all together. He knew the prayer you would pray; He moved the heart of the person who sent the package; no, He didn’t “change” anything because of your prayer, but He “heard” it before it was prayed, and provided, and answered. He is eternal; He is not bound by time as we are!
It should also comfort us that nothing “sneaks up” on God; He already sees all history. That is why He could inspire John to write a book like Revelation. Everything is already done from His perspective. He is already ahead of, and all around the future. “Time is in His hand” the song “How Great is our God” says, and that is true. He surrounds all of it with His eternal, unchanging presence and power.
And it is not only true of history as a whole, but of our personal lives. Nothing in your life “sneaks up” on God; He already knows; it is in His hand. You may have gotten some difficult “news” this week; but it was not “news” to Him. He is not having to “change His plan” for you because of anything that is happening right now. He is eternal, unchanging. You just need to rest your situation in the hand of your eternal, unchanging God! He has been with you yesterday, He is at your side today, and He will be with you tomorrow – in fact, He is already there!
D. Your Relationship with God
This also gives us a confidence in the way that we approach God. Because He is always the same, we don’t have to worry “what kind of mood He is in” – have you thought about that? When we tell people about things, often we need to wait for “the right time” or when they are in “the right mood” to tell them. I remember one time, a few years back, when we were living in the parsonage, I had come home from the office, and it had been just “one of those days” like we all have from time to time, and I was just worn out in every way, and I plopped down in my chair in the living room, and Libby comes running over and says: “Dad, do you know how much Mom spent on my new dress today?!” Cheryl quickly jumped in: “Libby! We are not hiding that from dad, because we don’t do that, but you need to learn WHEN we tell him things like that – and it is not right now!” We have to do that kind of thing with people, don’t we? We need to see how they are feeling, or what kind of mood they are in, or “if this is a good time” to tell them something. Isn’t it good to know that you don’t have to do that with God? It is never a bad time to tell Him anything! You can always come to Him, and you will always find Him exactly the same as He always is – He is eternally the same. And He never changes His attitude towards YOU, either! People may like you one day, and dislike you the next. The whole state of Louisiana loves Les Miles when they’re 13-0 — then they all want him fired when he loses one game! People are fickle. But God is not. He says in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” He is consistent towards you. He does not change. You should find comfort in that.
In fact, God’s unchanging nature is the basis for our eternal security. “His love endures forever” we sung just a few minutes ago. The word “love” in that song is the Hebrew word “chesed”; it means His mercy, His grace. It endures forever. He does not extend His grace, and then take it back. We are not lost one day, saved the next, and lost again the next. “His (chesed) endures forever”! The basis of our security is NOT our good works or our own faithfulness, but the eternal, unchanging grace of God!
Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” This teaching of God’s Eternity and Immutability should cause us to be wise, the Bible says, in our outlook about our time here on earth. We get so caught up in time — especially in today’s hectic culture, everything is a matter of time, time, time, minute-by-minute appointments – but we need to let our understanding of God, and eternity, raise our eyes from our time-bound blindness to see that there IS indeed an eternity in front of us – and we had best spend our time on earth preparing for eternity. This life will soon be over, and Hebrews 9:27 says “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment.”
You are going to spend eternity somewhere: either in heaven or in hell. It will not be so many “years”. It will be an eternal “now.” It will never change. Dante wrote of hell in his “Inferno”, “Despair of hope all ye who enter here.” There is no changing your eternal destiny once you are there. You just WILL be, either eternally present before God worshipping in heaven, or an eternally burning, present hell. It is vital for you to purposefully determine your direction right now.
Ezekiel 33:10-16 says this:
“Now as for you, son of man, say to the house ofIsrael, ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?”’ Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ … when I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and he turns from his sin … he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him … he shall surely live.”
Now, someone may ask: Is God “changing His mind” when a person repents of his sin and turns to Him, so that God saves Him? Not at all! God Ezekiel says God has never desired that anyone perish; He does not delight in the death of the wicked. He has always said that whoever will repent will be saved. God is not changing HIS position; He has always said that He would judge sin, but receive those repented and returned to Him. God is eternally the same. YOU however, in time, may change YOUR direction!
At the conclusion of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, when the Ghost of Christmas future has shown Ebenezer Scrooge what is coming for him; how he will be forsaken and vilified and left alone to die, because of his miserly ways, the spirit points to the tombstone that will be Scrooge’s. But then Scrooge cries out:
“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”
The ghost in “A Christmas Carol” does not answer Scrooge’s question. But God answers it here in His word. He says, “Yes!” If you will turn from your ways, and turn to Jesus as your Savior, your end will change. Some of you today you are like Scrooge – you are headed for an eternity of despair in hell. But there is still time. It is not yet too late. You may still change the direction of your life, and change your end. GOD is not going to change. He is eternal, immutable, unchanging. His attitude towards you, and sin and eternity, never change.
— He loves you – that will never change.
— He cannot overlook your sin – He is holy God; sin must be judged, and that will never change.
— But if you will repent of your sin, and trust Jesus as your Savior, God will forgive you, and give you eternity with Him in heaven. That is not a “change”; He has always said, “I do not desire the death of the wicked.” He has always said that He does not desire for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. He has always said: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But you may change your direction today, by repenting of your sins, and trusting Jesus as your Savior.
Isaiah 41:4 is one of the most intriguing verses in the Bible. In it, God says, “I the Lord am the first – and WITH the last. I am He.” He is the first – He is from eternity; with no beginning; no one was before Him; He created all things. He is the first. But then, interestingly enough, He says, “I am WITH the last.” WITH the last – because He will not be alone at the last – He will have others with Him – every one of us who turns to Him as Lord & Savior will be WITH HIM forever in heaven! With Him for all eternity: the One whom Psalm 16 says will give us fullness of joy, and pleasures from His right hand! By His grace through Jesus Christ, you can spend all eternity in the very presence of “Our Eternal God”!